Clay is the rendering of several words, more or less accurately, in certain passages in the English Bible: טַיט, tit, prop. mud (Ps 40:2), i.e. mire (as often rendered), hence potter's clay, as being trodden fine (Isa 41:25; Na 3:14); corresponding to the Gr. πηλός (Joh 9:6,11,14-15; Ro 9:21; Wisd, 7:9; 15:7, 8; Ecclesiasticus 33:13; 38:30; Bel 7), as soiling or plastic; and חֹמֶר, cho'mer, reddish loam (Job 4:19; Job 13:12; Job 27:16; Job 33:33), e.g. potter's clay (Isa 29:16; Isa 45:9; Jer 18:4,6), as used for sealing (Job 38:14), or for cement of building ("mortar," Ge 11:3), so for making brick (Ex 1:14; "mortar," Isa 41:25; Na 3:14); also common street "mire" (Isa 10:6; Job 30:19; "clay," Job 10:9). Other terms so rendered less correctly are: מֶלֶט, me'let, mortar for plastering (Jer 43:9); and the Chald. חֲסִŠ, chasaph', sherd, of burnt clay-ware (Da 2:23). The word עָב, ab ("clay," 2Ch 4:17), or מִעֲבֶה, madbeh' (" clay," 1Ki 7:47), denotes darkness or density of soil, i.e. perh. depth of earth; and the merely apparent compound עִבטַיט, abtit' ("thick clay"), in Hab 2:6, signifies rather a pledging of goods to an extortioner. SEE MINERALOGY.
"Clay is a sedimentary earth, tough and plastic, arising from the disintegration of felspar and similar minerals, and always containing silica and alumina combined in variable proportions. As the sediment of water remaining in pits or in streets, the word is used frequently in the O.T. (e.g. Isa 57:20; Jer 38:6; Ps 18:42), and in the N.T. (Joh 9:6), a mixture of sand or dust with spittle. It is also found in the sense of potter's clay (Isa 41:25), the elegant and useful forms assumed by the rude material under his hands supplying a significant emblem of the Divine power over the destinies of man (Isa 64:8; Jer 18:1-6; Ro 9:21). The alluvial soils of Palestine would no doubt supply material for pottery, a manufacture which we know was, as it still is, carried on in the country (Jer 18:2,6); but our knowledge on the subject is so small as to afford little or no means of determining, and the clay of Palestine, like that of Egypt, is probably more loam than clay (Birch, Hist. of Pottery, 1, 55, 152). SEE POTTERY. Bituminous shale, convertible into clay, is said to exist largely at the source of the Jordan, and near the Dead Sea, also near Bethshan (Burckhardt, 2:593; Russegger, 3:278, 253, 254). The great seat of the pottery of the present day in Palestine is Gaza, where are made the vessels in dark blue clay so frequently met with. The Talmud (Aboda Sara, 2, 3) mentions a peculiar kind of luteous material called 'Hadrian's clay' (חרס הררייני). The use of clay in brickmaking was also common. See BRICK. Another use of clay was in sealing (Job 38:14). The bricks of Assyria and Egypt are most commonly found stamped either with a die or with marks made by the fingers of the maker. Wine-jars in Egypt were sometimes sealed with clay; mummy-pits were sealed with the same substance, and remains of clay are still found adhering to the stone door-jambs. Our Lord's tomb may have been thus sealed (Mt 27:66), as also the earthen vessel containing the evidences of Jeremiah's purchase (Jer 32:14). So also in Assyria, at Kouyunjik, pieces of fine clay have been found bearing impressions of seals with Assyrian, Egyptian, and Phoenician devices. The seal used for public documents was rolled on the moist clay, and the tablet was then placed in the fire and baked. The practice of sealing doors with clay to facilitate detection in case of malpractice is still common in the East (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 1, 15, 48; 2, 364; Layard, Nin. and Bab. p. 153, 158, 608; Herod. 2, 38; Harmer, Obs. 4, 376)" (Smith, s.v.). Norden and Pococke observe that the inspectors of the granaries in Egypt, after closing the door, put their seal upon a handful of clay, with which they cover the lock. SEE SEAL. Clay was also used, no doubt, in primitive times for mortar, for the same term is employed for both (Ge 11:3). Houses are built of clay mixed with sand in countries where stones are not to be found. SEE MORTAR. In Job 4:19, it is said of mankind that they dwell in huts of clay, either alluding to such dwellings, or to the "clay tenements" of the body (compare 2Co 5:1). Our Savior anointed the eyes of the blind man with a salve made of clay and spittle (Joh 9:6), a simple preparation, which, it would be manifest to all, — could have in itself no curative virtue. The "clay ground" (literally thickness of soil) in which Solomon caused the large vessels of the Temple to be cast (1Ki 7:46; 2Ch 4:17) was a compact loam, of a quality or rather extent, depth some 28 feet; SEE JACHIN not to be found elsewhere in Palestine, which is generally rocky or sandy. SEE METALLURGY.